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  2. We had a long day of driving ahead of us today, with approximately 300 miles to cover. We didn't want to just drive straight home though, so we made a reasonably early start from Newton Stewart. While overall we probably prefer staying in Hawick, the advantage of overnighting in Newton Stewart was that we could drive home via the M6, and that meant that we would be able to stop off in the Lake District without making much of a detour Tim had found some National Trust walks in the Lake District online and we decided to try one which started from the small village of Hartsop. It wasn't a p
  3. Last night we made the most of our final views of the sea from the cottage on Islay. We were leaving on a very early ferry this morning - 07.00 from Port Ellen, with final check-in at 06.30. Our experience with driving on the narrow roads on the island over the past few days meant that we felt we needed to leave a full hour for the drive to Port Ellen, so we checked out of the cottage at 05.30. That was a pretty early start and we hadn't had any breakfast before we left, so I was pleasantly surprised when we boarded the ferry and found that the canteen was serving a full cooked
  4. When we woke up this morning we were relieved to see that the weather looked significantly better than yesterday It's hard to make them out in the photos, but when we stepped outside the cottage there were several seals in the harbour again. Portnahaven had been pretty even in the torrential rain yesterday, but this morning everything looked even better. We went for a stroll around the village to enjoy the sunshine. From the far side of the harbour we could look back towards the cottage again. And at one point we spotted seven different s
  5. The weather forecast did not look good for today and, although it looked dry when we woke up, by the time we had finished breakfast the first drops of rain were starting to fall. Our only plan for today was to explore Islay, so we decided to start with a short walk around the village of Portnahaven where we are staying. They didn't make it into the photos, but every so often as we walked along we could see the heads of seals bobbing up out of the water in the harbour The house we're staying in is right at the end of this line. If you look carefully you might
  6. We only arrived on Islay late last night and this morning we were already scheduled to depart it for another island. This was just a day trip though, to the nearby island of Colonsay. There are only two days per week when a ferry from the mainland to Islay continues on towards Oban, stopping at Colonsay on the way. Wednesday was one of those days and we had decided to make the most of the ferry timetable to have a short trip to Colonsay. The ferry wasn't until 12.15, so we had a relaxed start to the morning in the cottage before driving across Islay to Port Askaig, which is where this par
  7. We had another long day of travelling ahead of us today, involving two ferries and a drive of around three hours in between. We woke up in the hotel on the Isle of Arran, where it was still lovely and sunny. After making the most of the hotel breakfast, we just had time for a quick stroll to enjoy the views for a final time before setting off across the island to Brodick. We were booked on a ferry from Brodick back to Ardrossan at 11am. As the ferry pulled out of Brodick, we had some great views back towards the Isle of Arran. We arrived in Ardrossan
  8. When we woke up today it was a beautiful sunny morning on the Isle of Arran. The view from outside our hotel is really wonderful. We had a quick stroll around outside to enjoy it, before jumping in the car to start our Isle of Arran roadtrip. Our first destination was actually only a couple of miles down the road. We parked in a small Forestry Commission car park, from where we were planning to do a circular walk. The trees were really dense here and the forest looked so dark! From just outside the car park itself, we had some amazing views.
  9. Breakfast was included in the price of the hotel we were staying at in Hawick last night, so we made the most of it this morning; both to get our money's worth and because we weren't sure when we would next find food. We had another fairly long day of driving ahead of us today, ultimately travelling to the ferry port at Ardrossan, from where we were due to catch a ferry to the Isle of Arran in the evening. Ardrossan is just under a 3 hour drive from Hawick if you go directly, but we weren't in a hurry and decided to take the more scenic route, with a diversion to visit Culzean Castle. Th
  10. This is a holiday which has been planned completely at the last minute. I handed in my notice three months ago and yesterday was my final day at work. It wasn't finalised until quite recently that I would be able to finish yesterday and take the coming week off as holiday and that uncertainty, combined with the general uncertainty caused by Covid, meant that we hadn't booked anything in advance. I only starting looking at possible destinations on Monday night and it was Tuesday/Wednesday before I was actually making plans and bookings. But we do now have a plan and quite an exciting one,
  11. In the absence of any firm plans, we spent some time this morning trying to generate ideas of places we could visit on the way home. We considered going to Chester, but looked at the map and realised it would involve driving a bit out of the way. In the end we settled on the idea of visiting the Long Mynd in Shropshire, which was more or less on our route. Having made this decision, we went for a final walk around Ruthin and handed the key back to the owner of the cottage. He suggested that we should drive home via Llangollen, which would take us on a scenic road via the Horseshoe Pass, and ex
  12. We didn't do much research for this holiday in advance, so we didn't have a firm plan of what to do today. Looking through suggested walks in the Wales guidebook last night, we came across instructions for a walk around the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. It looked pretty based on a Google image search and it was less than 40 miles away from where we're staying in Ruthin, so we decided to give it a go. The drive was very scenic, though it did take us down some single-track roads where you just had to hope for the best that no one was coming in the opposite direction. The final road to the wate
  13. As I mentioned yesterday, we didn't have many plans for this trip but one thing we did want to do was visit Conwy. An Esperanto-speaking friend who lived near the town sadly passed away last year. He had a large collection of Esperanto books, some of which Tim was interested in acquiring, and we had arranged to visit his wife to pick those up and take the rest of the collection back to Esperanto House in Barlaston. Conwy is only about 45 minutes away from where we're staying in Ruthin, so it was an easy journey to make and save a lot of courier costs. It was a bit damp and drizzly when w
  14. After a day at home following our trip to Devon, we were ready to hit the road again. The destination this time was Wales and the small town of Ruthin. Not a part of Wales we are familiar with - or a town I'd ever heard of before to be honest - but options for accommodation were fairly limited when we were trying to book this break at short notice. I had done lots of advanced planning for our first break to Devon because I knew we weren't going to have any internet when we got there. We do have internet at the place we're staying in Ruthin, and so we're taking a more spontaneous approach
  15. It was time to head home and check up on the cats today, but not before having a final Devon adventure. We'd already ticked off the national parks of Exmoor and Dartmoor, but the Devon guidebook also strongly recommended visiting the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This wasn't a place that we were familiar with, but it was a nice sunny day and we decided to give us a try The guidebook had specifically recommended walking along the coastline outside a small village called Beer, so that was where we were headed. It was around 60 miles from where we'd been staying, on the fa
  16. The good thing about staying in the middle of Devon is that it gives us lots of options for where to travel. Yesterday, we went north to Exmoor. Today, we decided to go south to Dartmoor. Our first stop was a place called Castle Drogo, right on the edge of Dartmoor. Castle Drogo isn't a real castle, having been constructed between 1911 and 1930. But the property is owned by the National Trust and has a reasonably large car park, which you can park in to do walks on the estate, even if you're not interested in visiting the property. The estate includes views of the Teign Gorge and I had found
  17. It had rained quite a lot overnight and was still quite damp when we woke up this morning. During breakfast we just managed to get enough of a signal to check the forecast, which suggested it was actually going to be a reasonably dry day, with not more than a 30% chance of rain at any point. After a short morning stroll around the area where we're staying, we decided to head north today towards the Exmoor National Park. I had invested in a Devon guidebook prior to this trip, and one of the things it recommend as being a highlight of Exmoor was a place called the Tarr Steps. Google had sug
  18. I had planned to take a week of work in June for a while, but planning an actual holiday to take has been complicated. Firstly, by the fact that I've handed in my notice at work, so for a while it wasn't clear if/when I was going to be able to take off all my holiday. Secondly, by the fact that our trusted cat sitter is also on holiday this week. In the end we decided that the best solution would be to go away for two short breaks of three nights each, that being the longest we can leave the furry members of the family unattended, and make a trip home in the middle to top up the water and cat
  19. The apartment we'd booked in Hawick was really lovely, but the blinds on the windows weren't very thick and the shape of the windows meant that the blinds didn't fully cover them. This was the resulting brightness in our room prior to 5am. That meant we had a reasonably early start to the day. We couldn't complain about how beautiful and sunny it was once we stepped outside in Hawick though After yesterday's failure to park, today we were planning to visit a (hopefully!) less popular tourist attraction; a small waterfall in the Kielder Forest. The car park was around 30
  20. It was a beautiful sunny day this morning when we woke up in Hawick. I'd decided it might be nice to do something in Scotland today rather than travelling to Northumberland again and when I was researching options last night, I found a National Trust place called St Abb's Head. It looked like it would have some beautiful coastal walks, and it was only about 50 miles away from Hawick, so we decided to give it a go. We had a lovely drive through the countryside towards the coast, with blue sky everywhere. It was only when we got within a couple of miles of St Abb's Head that we saw what loo
  21. When we woke up in Hawick this morning, the weather was not as sunny as the forecast had promised. The sky was rather cloudy and it looked distinctly like it might have been raining overnight. It was dry now though, so before we set off towards Northumberland for our main adventure of the day we decided to have an early morning stroll around Hawick. When we first visited Hawick last year, we were told to visit Wilton Lodge Park, which is apparently one of the best parks in Scotland. It's certainly a lot bigger than our park in Nuneaton. Once you get to the edge of th
  22. We enjoyed our trip to Northumberland for the first May bank holiday so much that we were keen to return to the same part of the world for the second bank holiday. The only problem was that we hadn't booked anything in advance, and the second May bank holiday falls during school half terms, meaning there is a lot of demand for accommodation. When we started searching on booking.com at the start of this month, we couldn't find anything suitable available in Northumberland at all, just a handful of apartments which felt more like they were on the outskirts of Newcastle. That was disappointing, u
  23. We didn't have fixed plans for today, so once we'd had dinner last night we started to do a bit more research on the local area. In the course of doing so, I came across the Northumberland National Park website, which has a useful facility to search for walking routes based on distance and level of difficulty. I came up with a few possible options and we narrowed it down to the Drake Stone and Harbottle walk, which was described as being a moderate circular walk Northumberland is a huge county and so the starting point for the walk, a Forestry Commission car park just outside the village
  24. When we came to Northumberland for the first time last summer, one of the things we wanted to do was see some of Hadrian's Wall. We initially assumed this would be relatively easy to do, but it turned out to be surprisingly difficult and on our first trip we failed to track down any of it at all. On the way back from our Scottish islands trip in September, we were more successful and visited a section of the wall by Cawfields quarry. When I was researching things to do this weekend, I realised that the cottage we are staying in is really close to some of the sites along the wall and in particu
  25. For this bank holiday last year, we had booked to go on a long weekend to Monaco. Well, really a long weekend in a place called Menton in France, because Monaco is way out of our budget, but the objective was to visit Monaco and add another small European country to our visited list. The pandemic meant that trip ultimately didn't happen, but this time last year EasyJet gave me the option to rebook the cancelled flights for May 2021. Back in May 2020, this seemed like an excellent idea; I didn't think for one minute that we wouldn't be back to normal life by May 2021! Little did I know Obvious
  26. Tim

    Bye Bye, Mortgage

    A shade over 11 years ago we took out a 35-year mortgage on our house. We've just paid it off in full, every penny coming from us: no loans, no gifts, no inheritance. Clare's only 36 years old and owns her house outright! I don't think it's too bad either for me at 41. And so we treated ourselves to celebrate. The day the final payment went through was a workday but that didn't mean we couldn't do something special. Clare came downstairs expecting Bran Flakes for breakfast: I always include Heidi and Pebbles on special occasions, so they got a tin of tuna for breakfast:
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